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Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare in which a small group of combatants such as paramilitary personnel, armed civilians, or irregulars use military tactics including ambushes, sabotage, raids, petty warfare, hit-and-run tactics, and mobility to fight a larger and less-mobile traditional military.
In a war of revolutionary character, guerrilla operations are a necessary part. This is particularly true in war waged for the emancipation of a people who inhabit a vast nation.
MAO-TSE-TUNG (MAO ZEDONG )
China is such a nation, a nation whose techniques are undeveloped and whose communications are poor Under these circumstances, the development of the type of guerrilla warfare characterized by the quality of mass is both necessary and natural. These guerrilla operations must not be considered as an independent form of warfare. They are but one step in the total war, one aspect of the revolutionary struggle. They are the inevitable result of the clash between oppressor and oppressed when the latter reach the limits of their endurance. In case of china , these hostilities began at a time when the people were unable to endure any more from the Japanese imperialists.
Lenin, in People and Revolution, said: 'A people's insurrection and a people's revolution are not only natural but inevitable.
We consider guerrilla operations as but one aspect of our total or mass war because they, lacking the quality of independence, are of themselves incapable of providing a solution to the struggle. Guerrilla warfare has qualities and objectives peculiar to itself. It is a weapon that a nation inferior in arms and military equipment may employ against a more powerful aggressor nation. When the invader pierces deep into the heart of the weaker country and occupies her territory in a cruel and oppressive manner, there is no doubt that conditions of terrain, climate, and society in general offer obstacles to his progress and may be used to advantage by those who oppose him. In guerrilla warfare we turn these advantages to the purpose of resisting and defeating the enemy. guerrilla warfare has certain distinctive characteristics. We first will discuss the relationship of guerrilla warfare to national policy. Because ours is the resistance of a semi colonial country against an imperialism, our hostilities must have a clearly defined political goal and firmly established political responsibilities.
Our basic policy is the creation of a national united anti-Japanese front. This policy we pursue in order to gain our political goal, which is the complete emancipation of the Chinese people. There are certain fundamental steps necessary in the realization of this policy, to wit:
1. Arousing and
organizing the people.
2. Achieving internal unification politically.
3. Establishing bases.
4. Equipping forces.
5. Recovering national strength.
6. Destroying enemy's national strength.
7. Regaining lost territories.
There is no reason to consider guerrilla warfare separately from national policy.
On the contrary, it must be organized and conducted in complete accord with national anti-Japanese policy.
relationship of guerrilla warfare to the people :Without a political goal, guerrilla warfare must fail, as it must, if its political objectives do not coincide with the aspirations of the people and their sympathy, co-operation, and assistance cannot be gained.
The essence of guerrilla warfare is thus revolutionary in character.
Because guerrilla warfare basically derives from the masses and is supported by them, it can neither exist nor flourish if it separates itself from their sympathies and co-operation.
for guerrilla warfare
Though all guerrilla bands that spring from the masses of the people suffer from lack of organization at the time of their formation, they all have in common a basic quality that makes organization possible. All guerrilla units must have political and military leadership. This is true regardless of the source or size of such units. Such units may originate locally, in the masses of the people; they may be formed from an admixture of regular troops with groups of the people, or they may consist of regular army units intact. And mere quantity does not affect this matter. Such units may consist of a squad of a few men, a battalion of several hundred men, or a regiment of several thousand men. All these must have leaders who are unyielding in their policies—resolute, loyal, sincere, and robust. These men must be well-educated in revolutionary technique, self confident, able to establish severe discipline, and able to cope with counter-propaganda. In short, these leaders must be models for the people. Unorganized guerrilla warfare cannot contribute to victory and those who attack the movement as a combination of banditry and anarchism do not understand the nature of guerrilla action.
What is basic guerrilla strategy?
Guerrilla strategy must be based primarily on Alertness, mobility, and attack. It must be adjusted to the enemy situation, the terrain, the existing lines of communication, the relative strengths, the weather and the situation of the people.
In guerrilla warfare,
- select the tactic of seeming to come from the east and attacking from the west;
- avoid the solid, attack the hollow;
- attack; withdraw; deliver a lightning blow, seek a lightning decision.
- When guerrillas engage a stronger enemy, they withdraw when he advances;
- harass him when he stops;
- strike him when he is weary;
- pursue him when he withdraws.
In guerilla strategy, the enemy's rear, flanks, and other vulnerable spots are his vital points, and there he must be harassed, attacked, dispersed, exhausted and annihilated. Only in this way can guerrillas carry out their mission of independent guerrilla action and coordination with the effort of the regular armies. But, in spite of the most complete preparation, there can be no victory if mistakes are made in the matter of command.
1. Organization, consolidation and preservation of base areas
usually in difficult and isolated terrain.
2. Progressive expansion by terror and attacks on isolated enemy
to obtain arms, supplies and political support.
3. Decision, or destruction of the enemy in battle.
The revolutionary cadres begin their work in remote rural areas. It’s easier to hide there and governments tend to ignore remote areas or, even better, discriminate against their inhabitants. That serves to helps with recruiting. Cadres come to villages to live and work and socialize with the locals. Over time they become trusted. In that newly fertile ground they develop a program, the party line, and recruit followers.
Next, the transition to phase two, guerrilla warfare, armed struggle. In guerrilla warfare, attacks are carefully planned for heightened effect, but usually not for military purposes Instead phase two, revolutionaries are interested in using military force for political purposes. Now question will arise ? What or who is the first target? This is low-intensity warfare at this point so the target will likely be an individual or a small group, a police chief for example, or a village chief, or maybe even a province chief or council. Kidnapping and assassination are the tools of the trade, not so much because they want to get rid of that person but rather to make a resounding point. To what effect? To demonstrate to the populace that the insurgents can get to the enemy, that their force is a real factor to be respected. It also induces fear in the ranks. The first attacks may do little physical damage to the enemy, but psychologically, fears of possible mayhem just around the corner get stoked. Suddenly, formerly comfortable officials begin to fear for their safety. They may then pull their forces further inward for personal protection, which usually made the villagers happy. Another primary reason behind these first attacks is to get attention. Basically, when people read about the attack in the newspaper or hear about it on the radio or by word of mouth, they’re going to be curious about what is happening. Even if they’ve never heard of the revolutionary movement they may start thinking about it and seek to learn more. Engaging in that initial act of violence, or terrorism, demonstrates to the people that the revolution is real, that its agents are here and they mean business. And they can win. For villagers already opposed to the government, or even for those who were neutral, this represented a development worth watching, and maybe hope for something new and better. From that initial purely political statement, progress toward the third and final stage is constantly evolving. In the third stage military objectives rise to the fore. Getting there involves the constant escalation of fear through violence.
The armed victory of the Cuban people over the Batista dictatorship was not only the triumph of heroism but it also forced a change in the old dogmas concerning the conduct of the popular masses of Latin America. It showed plainly the capacity of the people to free themselves by means of guerrilla warfare from a government that oppresses them.
We consider that the Cuban Revolution contributed two fundamental lessons to the conduct of revolution.
1. Popular forces can win a war against the army.
2. It is not necessary to wait until all conditions for making revolution exist; the insurrection can create them.
Naturally, it is not to be thought that all conditions for revolution are going to be created through the impulse given to them by guerrilla activity. It must always be kept in mind that there is a necessary minimum without which the establishment and consolidation of the first center is not practicable.
Where a government has come into power through some form of popular vote, fraudulent or not, and maintains at least an appearance of constitutional legality, the guerrilla outbreak cannot be promoted, since the possibilities of peaceful struggle have not yet been exhausted.
Guerrilla warfare as a phase of war Though geographical and social conditions in each country determine the mode and particular forms that guerrilla warfare will take, there are general laws that hold for all fighting of this type.
Now question arises that:
Who are the combatants in guerrilla warfare?
On one side we have a group composed of the oppressor and his agents, the professional army, well armed and disciplined, in many cases receiving foreign help as well as the help of the bureaucracy in the employ of the oppressor.
On the other side are the people of the nation or region involved. It is important to emphasize that guerrilla warfare is a war of the masses, a war of the people. The guerrilla band is an armed nucleus, the fighting vanguard of the people. It draws its great force from the mass of the people themselves. The guerrilla band is not to be considered inferior to the army against which it fights simply because it is inferior in firepower. Guerrilla warfare is used by the side which is supported by a majority but which possesses a much smaller number of arms for use in defense against oppression.
The guerrilla fighter needs full help from the people of the area. This is an indispensable condition. This is clearly seen by considering the case of bandit gangs that operate in a region. They have all the characteristics of a guerrilla army: homogeneity, respect for the leader, valor, knowledge of the ground, and, often, even good understanding of the tactics to be employed. The only thing missing is support of the people; and, inevitably, these gangs are captured and exterminated by the public force.
When we analyze more fully the tactic of guerrilla warfare,
we will see that the guerrilla fighter needs to have a good knowledge of the surrounding countryside, the paths of entry and escape, the possibilities of speedy maneuver, good hiding places; naturally, also, he must count on the support of the people.
All this indicates that the guerrilla fighter will carry out his action in wild places of small population. Since in these places the struggle of the people for reforms is aimed primarily and almost exclusively.
The China of Mao begins as an outbreak of worker groups in the South, which is defeated and almost annihilated. It succeeds in establishing itself and begins its advance only when, after the long march from Yenan, it takes up its base in rural territories and makes agrarian reform its fundamental goal.
The struggle of Ho ChiMinh is based in the rice-growing peasants, who are oppressed by the French colonial yoke; with this force it is going forward to the defeat of the colonialists.
In both cases there is a framework of patriotic war against the Japanese invader, but the economic basis of a fight for the land has not disappeared.
War is always a struggle in which each contender tries to annihilate the other. Besides using force, they will have recourse to all possible tricks and stratagems in order to achieve the goal. Military strategy and tactics are a representation by analysis of the objectives of the groups and of the means of achieving these objectives. These means contemplate taking advantage of all the weak points of the enemy.
Hit and run, wait, lie in ambush, again hit and run, and thus repeatedly, without giving any rest to the enemy. There is in all this, it would appear, a negative quality, avoiding frontal fights.
However, this is consequent upon the general strategy of guerrilla warfare, which is the same in its ultimate end as is any warfare: to win, to annihilate the enemy.
Thus, it is clear that guerrilla warfare is a phase that does not afford in itself opportunities to arrive at complete victory.
It is one of the initial phases of warfare and will develop continuously until the guerrilla army in its steady growth acquires the characteristics of a regular army. At that moment it will be ready to deal final blows to the enemy and to achieve victory. Triumph will always be the product of a regular army, even though its origins are in a guerrilla army.
strategy is understood as the analysis of the objectives to be achieved in light of the total military situation and the overall ways of reaching these objectives.
To have a correct strategic appreciation from the point of view of the guerrilla band, it is necessary to analyze fundamentally what will be the enemy's mode of action.
The guerrilla fighter, on the other hand, must analyze the resources which the enemy has for trying to achieve that outcome: the means in men, in mobility, in popular support, in armaments, in capacity of leadership on which he can count. We must make our own strategy adequate on the basis of these studies, keeping in mind always the final objective of defeating the enemy army.
There are fundamental aspects to be studied: the armament, for example, and the manner of using this armament. The value of a tank, of an airplane, in a fight of this type must be weighed. The arms of the enemy, his ammunition, his habits must be considered; because the principal source of provision for the guerrilla force is precisely in enemy armaments. If there is a possibility of choice, we should prefer the same type as that used by the enemy, since the greatest problem of the guerrilla band is the lack of ammunition, which the opponent must provide.
After the objectives have been fixed and analyzed, it is necessary to study the order of the steps leading to the achievement of the final objective. This should be planned in advance, even though it will be modified and adjusted as the fighting develops and unforeseen circumstances arise.
At the outset, the essential task of the guerrilla fighter is to keep himself from being destroyed. Little by little it will be easier for the members of the guerrilla band or bands to adapt themselves to their form of life and to make flight and escape from the forces that are on the offensive an easy task, because it is performed daily. When this condition is reached, the guerrilla, having taken up inaccessible positions out of reach of the enemy, or having assembled forces that deter the enemy from attacking, ought to proceed to the gradual weakening of the enemy. This will be carried out at first at those points nearest to the points of active warfare against the guerrilla band and later will be taken deeper into enemy territory, attacking his communications, later attacking or harassing his bases of operations and his central bases, tormenting him on all sides to the full extent of the capabilities of the guerrilla forces.
The blows should be continuous. The enemy soldier in a zone of operations ought not to be allowed to sleep; his outposts ought to be attacked and liquidated systematically. At every moment the impression ought to be created that he is surrounded by a complete circle. In wooded and broken areas this effort should be maintained both day and night; in open zones that are easily penetrated by enemy patrols, at night only. In order to do all this the absolute cooperation of the people and a perfect knowledge of the ground are necessary. These two necessities affect every minute of the life of the guerrilla fighter. Therefore, along with centers for study of present and future zones of operations, intensive popular work must be undertaken to explain the motives of the revolution, its ends, and to spread the incontrovertible truth that victory of the enemy against the people is finally impossible.
This popular work should at first be aimed at securing secrecy; that is, each peasant, each member of the society in which action is taking place, will be asked not to mention what he sees and hears; later, help will be sought from inhabitants whose loyalty to the revolution offers greater guarantees.
In military language, tactics are the practical methods of achieving the grand strategic objectives. tactics are much more variable, much more flexible than the final objectives, and they should be adjusted continually during the struggle.
The fundamental characteristic of a guerrilla band is mobility. This permits it in a few minutes to move far from a specific theatre and in a few hours far even from the region, if that becomes necessary; permits it constantly to change front and avoid any type of encirclement.
As the circumstances of the war require, the guerrilla band can dedicate itself exclusively to fleeing from an encirclement which is the enemy's only way of forcing the band into a decisive fight that could be unfavorable.
Characteristic of this war of mobility is the so-called minuet, named from the analogy with the dance: the guerrilla bands encircle an enemy position, an advancing column, for example; they encircle it completely from the four points of the compass, with five or six men in each place, far enough away to avoid being encircled themselves; the fight is started at any one of the points, and the army moves toward it; the guerrilla band then retreats, always maintaining visual contact, and initiates its attack from another point. The army will repeat its action and the guerrilla band, the same. Thus, successively, it is possible to keep an enemy column immobilized, forcing it to expend large quantities of ammunition and weakening the morale of its troops without incurring great dangers.
This same tactic can be applied at nighttime, closing in more and showing greater aggressiveness, because in these conditions counter- encirclement is much more difficult. Movement by night is another important characteristic of the guerrilla band, enabling it to advance into position for an attack and, where the danger of betrayal exists, to mobilize in new territory.
The numerical inferiority of the guerrilla makes it necessary that attacks always be carried out by surprise.
he enemy loss is always reparable; it amounts to only one percent of his effectives. The loss of the guerrilla band requires more time to be repaired .
A dead soldier of the guerrillas ought never to be left with his arms and his ammunition. The duty of every guerrilla soldier whenever a companion falls is to recover immediately these extremely precious elements of the fight.
Another fundamental characteristic of the guerrilla soldier is his flexibility, his ability to adapt himself to all circumstances, and to convert to his service all of the accidents of the action. Against the rigidity of classical methods of fighting, the guerrilla fighter invents his own tactics at every minute of the fight and constantly surprises the enemy.
one of the weakest points of the enemy is transportation by road and railroad. It is virtually impossible to maintain a vigil yard by yard over a transport line, a road, or a railroad. At any point a considerable amount of explosive charge can be planted that will make the road impassable; or by exploding it at the moment that a vehicle passes, a considerable loss in lives and materiel to the enemy is caused at the same time that the road is cut.
On Guerrilla Warfare: Two Takes, Mao vs. Guevara
Both Mao Tse-Tung and Che Guevara had outsized impacts on the social, political and cultural landscape of the 20th Century. They also made significant contributions to the field of irregular warfare. To the untrained observer, their similarities are many. Both were committed communists who fought and won guerrilla struggles. Both understood the people were the key to safety, support and victory for the insurgent cause. Both even gave their books the same straightforward title, On Guerrilla Warfare
Eight central topics are covered by both Mao and Guevara; they agree on four and disagree on four others. The matters on which they agree are
The population as the key to victory,
the importance of political as well as military action,
and the importance of context when developing strategy.
The most important of these contributions is the necessity of the population’s support. Mao famously observed that a guerrilla swims among the people like a fish swims in the sea. Without the support of the people the guerrilla is a fish out of water, “it cannot survive”. Guevara agrees, stating that, “the guerrilla fighter needs full help from the people.
In order to achieve this, they both agree on the importance of treating civilians with respect. Mao gives three rules and eight remarks to guide guerrilla forces. Some are practical, for instance, “do not steal from the people,” “replace the door when you leave the house,” and “return what you borrow.” Others are more abstract, such as, “be neither selfish nor unjust,” and “be honest in your transactions”
On this, Guevara states simply that behavior toward the people, “ought to be regulated by a large respect for all the rules and traditions of the people of the zone”.
The second point of agreement is the inherently political nature of guerrilla warfare. Interestingly, Mao had clearly read Clausewitz’s declaration that, “war is the continuation of politics by other means,” while Guevara probably did not.
The basics of guerrilla military tactics are another area of agreement between the two. Mao famously described these tactics using the following pithy phrase; “withdraw when he advances, harass him when he stops, strike him when he is weary, and pursue him when he withdraws”. He also lists alertness, mobility, and attack as well as adjustment to the enemy situation as crucial to victory. Likewise, Guevara states that the Guerrilla band must flee rather than be pulled into a decisive fight with a superior force. He also lists mobility and adjustment to enemy actions as vital to victory.
Mao’s major concern was the removal of a foreign invader. Guevara, on the other hand, was more concerned with the removal of a system of government. So when Mao lists the seven steps necessary for victory, two of them (recovering national strength and regaining lost territories) are only applicable in situations involving a foreign invader This leads to a difference of opinion regarding cooperation between guerrilla and regular forces.
Mao assumes that before guerrilla action can begin, the people must be made aware of their oppression and ready to fight the enemy of their own accord. Guevara disagrees, stating that while certain conditions such as class consciousness are necessary for ultimate victory, they are not necessary to begin guerrilla action.
Mao, on the other hand, organized guerrilla warfare into three distinct phases. The first of these is political work, the building of necessary conditions at the grassroots level (what Guevara hopes to skip using his shortcut). The next two are: guerrilla warfare and mobile warfare (these are not always sequential or uniform, and different elements of each phase can exist simultaneously across different fronts).
General Vo Nguyen Giap's Guerrilla Warfare
The war of liberation of the Vietnamese people proves that, in the
face of an enemy as powerful as he is cruel, victory is possible only
by uniting the whole people within the bosom of a firm and wide national
united front based on the worker- peasant alliance
Vo Nguyen Giap was born 28 August 1911 in Quang Binh Province. His revolutionary tendencies were already known and in the files of the French security service by the time he was 13 years old. Giap graduated from university with a degree in law and political economics but was forced into exile in China in 1940 due to the ban against the Communist Party.
During his exile, Giap met Ho Chi Minh, immersed himself in the study of Mao Tse-Tung's and other military strategist doctrines and attended a political/ guerrilla warfare school. Giap was given increasingly important leadership roles in the Indochinese Communist Party and once the decision was made to actively fight the Japanese and French forces in China, he was named commander of the Viet Minh forces. It was during these early years that Giap tested the strategies and operational doctrine (learned by Mao Tse-Tung) on the battlefield, analyzed his successes as well as failures and then developed his own kind of revolutionary warfare which followed Mao Tse-Tung's On Guerrilla Warfare in many aspects. The discussion about Mao Tse-Tung's guerrilla warfare was discussed in previous chapters should give the reader already a basic understanding of guerrilla tactics which is reason why mainly the differences and changes that Giap introduced are being summarized below
Giap's "new model" of Mao Tse-Tung's Guerrilla Warfare incorporated a more robust capability and intent to shift back and forth between the various stages of warfare.The shift was dictated by the situation as well as the region where the fighting occurred. Giap tailored Mao's guerrilla warfare to the requirements of the period as well as the geographic location. In his words, he saw a protracted warfare as a gradual altering of the balance of power by a long series of small tactical victories, each of which had been assured by achieving overwhelming local superiority, or declining battle. Giap divided protracted war into three distinct phases which are similar to Mao's but are not the same.
Giap's three phases according to Robert O'Neill (1969) consisted of:
2) Period of Equilibrium (complex mix of guerrilla and mobile warfare).
3) Stage of Counteroffensive (mobile warfare with conventional forces including some positional warfare in late stages)
Giap relied on regular forces much earlier in order to gain and hold new areas.
He saw organization and limited guerrilla activity and minor success against the enemy as integral to the overall organizational success. Giap continued and believed that the first phase also targeted enemy morale and attrition. Obviously attacks and other military operations were only conducted when success was certain because otherwise the continuous gaining of popular support was in danger. The wearing down of the enemy was another important aspect at this stage which was supposed to be accomplished by only attacking when success was certain but the withdrawal and the inability of the enemy to find the guerrillas was dragging down their morale. The second phase, the equilibrium, had two aspects; mainly the altering of the balance between the two forces due to the loosing of the will to fight by the enemy and the morale issues both in the enemy army as well as the homeland which affected the reluctant reinforcement of new troops. The next aspect in this phase was the importance of conventional units that were supposed to exploit the gains of the guerrillas already by making deliberate attacks aimed at geographic positions that were supposed to be held. The last phase of Giap, his counteroffensive, is where mobile warfare by large conventional forces would dominate the battle field. During this last phase, the importance of logistics and support functions became much more involved due to the switch from guerrilla to conventional war, at least to some extend .Giap' view is much less rigidly structured and more flexible as already mentioned above. Within each stage it reflects the strong influence exerted on national guerrilla strategy by North Vietnam's small size. For Mao, the three stages of protracted war moved from one stage to the next in a continuous and progressive process which means that each phase is precisely delineated and this development is usually carried out at the same time throughout the country.
Giap on the other hand saw the three stages merge into one another without a clear cut demarcation between them. Another point in which the North Vietnamese view differs from Mao's can be seen in the uniform development of the different stages. For Giap and Vietnam, the stages did not develop in a uniform pattern throughout the entire country. Giap had all three stages of Guerrilla Warfare throughout the country at the same time which explains why Giap believed that some areas that have already advanced to the third stage may be forced back into one of the other two former stages. This makes the protracted war a subject to innumerable retreats and deviations which is seen in its sporadic nature. Mao though believed that protracted war must be progressive and sequential which meant the entire country must be in the same stage of revolution . Another change from Mao's Guerrilla Warfare to Giap's can be seen in the functions and roles of guerrilla and conventional forces. While Mao placed emphasis on the conventional forces at the last stage, Giap continued to strongly support the guerrilla character in the combination with mixed conventional forces throughout all phases of his protracted war. Mao Tse-tung also urged the retreat to the countryside and the avoidance of positional warfare as can be seen in his words that "the enemy advances, we retreat; the enemy camps, we harass; the enemy tires, we attack; the enemy retreats, we pursue" Base areas for Mao Tse-tung were in the countryside where the support of the people saved the guerrilla. Giap on the other hand recommends a dedicated defense of the cities by using positional warfare and the use of guerrilla forces in such areas even after losing them and the development of base areas in close proximity to the cities. Once again, the geographical space played the significant part in the change of the Maoist doctrine. The second phase has differences as well between the two. Giap focused on the insurgent operations mixed with conventional forces which are being continued into the third stage as well where Mao demanded the use of conventional elements in its purity while Giap believed that final victory results from a combined guerrilla and conventional effort fighting hand in hand .General Vo Nguyen Giap, the school teacher and self taught general, showed the remarkable talent of extracting and applying elements of his choosing from a diverse group of military strategists and tacticians such as Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, Mao Tse-tung and others. Giap used the ideas of others and adapted them to the unique circumstances of Vietnam. He understood the concept of campaigning from having studied Napoleon and T. E Lawrence; his thoughts on "People's War" show the knowledge of the Clausewitzian trinity and the successful prosecution of war. Giap understood that in a "People's War", the center of gravity is the people. This isn't only the center of gravity of the enemy but also the center of gravity of one's own forces. The "hearts and minds" of the people decide the victor in any "People's War". The word that best describe General Giap's process throughout the use of guerrilla warfare in Vietnam is "adaptive". According to Giap, these adaptations represent "…a wise and creative application of Marxist-Leninist principles on revolutionary war and revolutionary armed forces to the practical situation of a small, weak, colonial and semi-feudal country.